Tag Archives: comics

I’m back: reviewing comic podcasts

Just to get the juices flowing and to ease back into the review game, this week I’m reviewing podcasts that are dedicated to comics. For years I’ve listened to requests for Itunes reviews from many a podcaster, but since I don’t use Itunes this never happened. Well, that has recently changed and finally I can meet this request. So here’s an overview   thoughts on some of my favorite podcasts. They all got five-star reviews from me at Itunes.

Hideous Energy
This podcast is the toast yo. Austin and David are friends that on one then more occasion kissed each other, sometimes hold hands and emotionally abuse one another. They are not gay however, but are perfectly fine with all kinds of gayety. Oh, and they like to talk about comics. Comics is the center topic of this podcast but, be prepared for discussions that happily flow miles, and miles off track, some fine absurdist humor, totally unfounded claims, unresearched journalism and a bunch of cock jokes. Whether you are interested in killing Giraffes, using fictitious drugs, listening to friends having a good time or just hearing about comics, this is one of the most entertaining comic podcasts out there.

Week after week for seven years now, Josh, Conner and Ron have reviewed the most recent comics. The Ifanboy pick of the week podcast is the number one resource for eloquent and well thought out reviews of comics, brought to you in a tight well produced format. Also, it doesn’t hurt that the hosts pack more than enough of the funny. The podcast offers views on indie darlings as well as big two blockbusters, all delivered through distinct personal voices of three very opinionated individuals (don’t be fooled by the preconception of Josh being the Vertigo guy, Ron the X-men guy and Conner the indie guy). Besides reviewing the latest Wednesday’s issues, the guys also review a book of the month on the podcast (which is almost always a trade paperback, hard cover or an original graphic novel), answer questions of the Ifanbase and feature some of the community feedback on comics. The experience, enthusiasm, and amount of thinking that the Ifanboys put in their podcast, makes it a cornerstone of the world of comics podcasting.

11 O’clock Comics
Four mikes. Four voices. Four laughs. Four drinks. Four tastes that can range quite far apart. This is the antithesis to the well-structured and tightly produced Ifanboy podcast. Here are four guys enjoying each other’s company and just letting it rip while talking comics. Sure there are a couple of recurring items (the introduction, the drink roll call and the ‘in your travels’ section), but mostly this is a free style form of comic podcasting. Surprisingly, with most episodes exceeding the two hour mark, listing to the ramblings of Vince B, friendly chuckles of David Price, analytic mind of Jason Woooooooooooood or the grumpy-when-drunk Christopher Neseman  never gets tired. Maybe this is because of the perfect blend of contemporary popular and indie comics spiced with splashes way back or because of the weird, absurd or even offensive material that Vince B brings to the table. A fact is that these gentlemen are very experienced comic readers and have a fine eye for the technical details (be it inking, lettering or coloring). Their recommendations have more than once led me to a more than satisfactory purchase and even more important they have provided hundreds of hours of entertainment.

Awesomed by Comics
Now this is a weird one, but a fun one. Hosted by the incredibly creative and talented couple of Evie Nagy and Aaron McQuade, this weekly-ish award show is like the Oscars, if Oscar was a podcast hosted by two journalists who just got a baby who therefore have little time left to spend on podcasting, however when they do get around to podcasting they are sure to make you laugh. Just like the Oscars Evie and Aaron each give out awards to comics and creators that they were awesomed by and some that they decidedly were not awesomed by. The comic reviewing is enriched by Evie’s quick wits and Aaron’s genuinely funny musical skits (Watching porn with Greg Land, anyone?). Sure, they may not be a weekly podcast anymore for the foreseeable feature, but when a new Awesomed by Comics MP3 file hits the internet, it’s pure comic book podcasting gold.

And now for a more local flavor, I will be switching to Dutch, because this is a Dutch podcast dedicated to the Dutch geek scene:

GeekStijl Insider
Neerland’s eigen podcast geweid aan alles wat met de geek cultuur te maken heeft. Comics, games, fantasy, toys, etc. Geekstijl schuwt geen onderwerp (een recente aflevering werd geweid aan mannelijke My Little Pony fans) en staat altijd open voor feedback of onderwerp suggesties. De presentatie ligt in handen van de bevlogen fanboys Arrie ten Wolde, John Lopez en Gert-Jan van Oosten. Dit strak geproduceerde en professioneel klinkende programma bevat behalve het laatste geeknieuws, wekelijks ook een comic aanrader en een interview met personen uit de Nederlandse geek-scene in de breedste zin. Niet alleen is het fijn om tussen het Amerikaanse podcast geweld ook eens een ander geluid te horen, maar de brede insteek van deze podcast is verfrissend te noemen in een tijd waarin iedere podcast zich op zijn eigen niche lijkt te gaan richten. Zo heb ik zelf als fervent comic liefhebber al menigmaal geboeid geluisterd naar voor mij verrassende praatjes over onderwerpen als bord- en kaartspellen.

Word Balloon
Host John Siuntres, the godfather of comic podcasting, describes his show as a comic book conversation podcast, in which he talks to the creators and all kinds of other people that work in or around the comic industry. With his insightful discussions John provides for a very interesting peek behind the curtains. Whether it’s recurring big shot guests like Brian Michal Bendis and Jeph Loeb or industry veterans like Martin Pasko and Neal Adams, John gets them all and has spent hours and hours of frank, friendly and above all entertaining discussions with them. Siuntres is an experienced radio maker, and this is evident from his radio friendly voice, which he has honed for years on local Chicago radio stations. His voice, together with his impressive roster of guests and the astute conversations he has with them makes this a veritable recommendation.

War Rocket Ajax
Another great comic book interview show, with a bit more format then say the Word Balloon podcast. Hosts Chris and Matt ostensibly want to destroy the earth through the awesomeness of their podcast. I’m not entirely sure they are succeeding, but at least they are producing some minor natural disasters around the world, and their awesomeness may actually contribute to global warming. Besides interesting guests from in and around the world of comics, this podcast is a monument to Chris’s love for cartoons (both the good, the bad and everything in between) and video games as well as (weirdly enough) his nostalgic love for the skater magazine Thrasher, from which he now and then lovingly recites letters.

That’s (more then) all the comic podcasting I have time to listen to. When my commute was longer I listened to these and the following, which I also highly recommend but do not listen to on a regular base:
Smodcast, Kevin Smith and Scott Mosier shooting shit together. Pretty funny, most of the time.
Hollywood Babble on, or HBO, Kevin Smith and Ralph Garman’s showbiz podcast, also spending a little attention to geek news. Guaranteed to make you laugh!
RadioLab, making difficult subjects understandable and relatable in a beautifully produced podcast.
MATES, or Mike and Tom Eat Snacks, for fresh insights into the world of snackology and the best improve comedy.

I hope somebody finds a usefull recommendation in this list. Next week I’ll be back to review every comic I have read. Allthough to be honest I don’t think it will be a particulalry long list (Au contraire)…

Quick shots for week 29: Cosmic Odyssee and Stephen King

Since I only have two books in the Quick shots section this week, I will go into a little bit more detail than normally about the first one (Cosmic Odyssee)…

5. Cosmic Odyssee (trade paperback)

Cosmic Odyssee TPB

Cosmic Odyssee TPB

This is a trade paperback I bought recently, it collects the four 48 page prestige format issues of a major DC cross-over event originally published in 1988. I have always been a big fan of Marvel’s Infinity Gauntlet, written by Jim Starlin. Last year I found out that he had done another cross-over event for the Distinguished Competition that was described as the Infinity Gauntlet for the DC Universe. This piqued my interest and so I was very excited to crack the spine of this beautiful Mignola drawn 200 pager.

The first thing that struck me was Mike Mignola’s art style. I’m not particularly well read in Mignola’s work, but I’m familiar enough with his great work on covers the last years and this was something entirely else. While it definitely has some of Mignola’s stylistics trademarks, it conveys both the trademarks of a gem in the rough as well as a product of its time. The art in this can be seen as a mixture of Mignola with art styles that were popular at the time, most notably that of Jim Lee and Rob Liefeld. While it wasn’t bad, let’s just call it ‘interesting’.

This looks strikingly like Jim Lee art right? Wrong! This is early Mike Mignola.

This looks strikingly like Jim Lee art right? Wrong! This is early Mike Mignola.

The second thing that hit me was crappy lettering. It took me a while to figure out that I have been spoiled by digital lettering. Maybe it was because of a pressing deadline, or maybe it was just the lettering of the times, but words and sentences were broken down clumsily very often.

The writing is from another time too and I kept that in mind, but still it had me cracking up at different times in the story. For instance, after Batman tracks down a stranded giant from Apokolips who keeps some mangled bodies in a meat locker, his caption boxes say: ‘Now I know who I face… …a cannibalistic alien.’ This had my mind reeling: Cannibalistic is when you eat you own species, right? And aliens and humans are definitely different species right? Right?

This sequence with Batman and the giant takes place in the sewers and the colouring of the sewers had me laughing out loud. While sewers are a destination often frequented by many a superhero, it’s seldom that you see ‘realistic’ colouring of the sewers’ content. Not in Cosmic Odyssee however: The colours leave little room for imagination as to what is flowing into Batman’s neck:

Here's to hoping the cowl's water proof....

Here's to hoping the cowl's water proof....

The plot of Cosmic Odyssee revolves around the Antilife Equation, Darkseid’s ultimate object of desire. While originally the Antilife Equation was an abstract threat to all life in the universe, in the pages of this book it somehow becomes a creature of its own. Darkseid is the first to discover this transformation and tricks the New Gods to team up with Batman, Superman, Green Lantern (John Stewart), Martian the Manhunter, Starfire and Etrigen the Demon to stop the embodiment of the Antilife Equation.

Although I prefer Grant Morrison over Jim Starlin, I have to hand it to Starlin on this one. He explained the concept of the Antilife Equation better than Morrison ever did in Final Crisis.

In my opinion this book does not hold up well against the Infinity Gauntlet, but it seems like Starlin set out to do something different here altogether. The whole universe-saving-big-action story feels very contrived and has many problems, but at the end of this book is where the writing shines. Here’s where many emotional beats are executed perfectly. I think that these emotional arcs are what Starlin wanted to write the most, it just took him really long to get there. When he does however, it’s gold. The most important arc is that of John Stewart who fails in his mission and because of this a solar system is destroyed killing billions upon billions of its inhabitants. At the end of the book he tries to commit suicide because of this. Martian the Manhunter talks him out of this however. This sequences is a marvel both to look at and to read. You can see the desperation in John’s eyes, the fear as he puts a space gun to his head, and his resolve when he puts the gun down.

John Stewart tries to commit suicide, as rendered by Mike Mignola.

John Stewart tries to commit suicide, as rendered by Mike Mignola.

Also, the book goes out with a bang when Batman, out of nothing bitch slaps Orion!

Batman slapping a god.

Batman slapping a god.

Considering it doesn’t hold up particularly well through the years and it wasn’t anything like the Infinity Gauntlet I still enjoyed it pretty much. For fans of Mignola, the New Gods, John Stewart or Darkseid I really recommend this trade.
Art:7.5  Writing:6.5         Overall:7

6. Stephen King (one shot)
To round this week off I read another biography comic by Blue Water Comics, this one about Stephen King. I liked it quite a bit. I think it found a good balance between being informative and entertaining. The last Blue Water biography comic I read, about Vincent Price was neither entertaining or informative… The edgy, thick lined art took a little getting used to. Strangely it felt a bit reminiscent of Gabriel Rodriguez the partner in crime of King’s son Joe Hill on Locke and Key. The storytelling was a bit confusing at times because it consisted of three different narratives: caption boxes by a third person story-teller, caption boxes with first person King quotes and the story that unfolded in the world balloons. This not withstanding I learned something new about Stephen King (his 1999 accident its consequences as well as some family stuff). For anybody interested in the author but not enough to plow though a prose biography this may be a good read. I bet it’s also good for high schoolers writing a report on King.
Art:6.3  Writing:6.9         Overall:6.6

Reading few comic books, loving the new Spider-man actor

I’m sorry to say that I didn’t get a lot of comic reading done this week. Here’s the problem: On a regular week, I stay at home to care for my four months old daughter at least two days. On these days I find myself frequently stuck on the couch while bottle feeding her. That’s when I get most of my reading done nowadays. However, the last week and a half my wife stayed at home because she was sick, all the while breast-feeding the baby and letting me get to my work…. So while I got a lot of things done last week, reading comics was put on the back burner…

Keeping that in mind I’m still very glad to have found the time to have read DC’s cosmic crossover from the late ’80’s Cosmic Odyssee, the Walking Dead 87, Daredevil 1, a biography comic about Stephen King, Screamland 2 from Image and the first issue of the most recent arc of Locke and Key: Clockworks… Reviews will be up shortly.

To make up for my straggling comic reading I offer a video of my favourite news coming out of Sandiego Comic Con this weekend. While I was excited by lots of stuff like the Eisners, Brian K. Vaugh’s return to comics, DC preview art from the upcoming reboot and the trailer of the second season of the Walking Dead television series. The following video of an apparent lifelong comic fan rushing the stage just before the panel of the new Spider-man movie left me with a warm feeling and got me pumped for the new film like nothing else I had seen up till now. Enjoy and see you shortly: